Academy Award Countdown, Part One

Movie Notes: Academy Award Countdown

I have never come this close to the Academy Awards show having seen so few films at this point. OK, I am feeling the pressure now to have seen as many nominated films as possible by Feb, 22, so here goes my first binge:

Whiplash – a great film about the pursuit of perfection. A maniacal music school bandleader played to perfection by JD Skinner (here almost as scary as he was in his break-out role as a neo-Nazi skinhead innate on Oz many years ago) ruthlessly cajoles, humiliates and terrorizes his students, especially one played by Miles Teller. The story is part coming of age and part thriller as we wait for the talented student to stand up for himself and emerge as an artist. Very suspenseful.

Into the Woods-a Stephen Sondheim musical with a fabulous cast that almost matches the execrable Peter Pan Live for sheer tedium. I saw this on the stage and do not recall it seeming to last about 4 hours. Full confession, I was sleep deprived when I saw this and did drift off during the middle bits. I loved the stage version and didn’t feel like the performers were making up their own songs as they were singing. Somehow Rob Marshall the director made these actors seem like they were improvising their songs, and not in a good way.

Birdman – a masterpiece of behind the scenes Hollywood. Filmed masterfully with long tracking shots, it is filled with clever dialogue and savagely funny vignettes. Michael Keaton is funny and touching and Edward Norton is fearless as an actor’s actor whose Method techniques are hysterically obsessive. He will stop at nothing to achieve a realistic performance.

The Immigrant – caught up with this one on the flight home from Aus. Wonderful performance by Marion Cotillard (nominated for Best Actress this year for a role in a French film, Two Days, One Night) as well as interesting performances from Joachim Phoenix and Jeremy Renner as grifters who lure Cotillard into a life of prostitution after she arrives at Ellis Is at the turn of the century.

The Theory of Everything – wonderful performances from Eddy Redmayne and Felicity Jones in this biopic about Stephen Hawking. Sweet and tearjerking – get out your hankies for a film about a genius with an indomitable spirit and the woman who helps him survive.

The Judge – also caught on the flight back from Aus. I think I did doze off during this predictable film which is all about prodigal children coming to terms with their lineage. Robert Downey gives his usual sardonic and likeable performance as the son who comes to understand his father, played by Robert Duvall who’s all bluster with an soft gooey heart underneath the crustiness.. A little cheesy but comforting film in the legal thriller genre.

OK, that’s my film line up so far. Now as for TV, I am way behind on any shows that resumed in January or made season debuts. I have a lot of catching up to do after not watching any TV at all for one month. This week in Canada we get season debuts of Justified, The Americans, and many others that I have completely lost track of. To the Internet Downloading Sites, PVR and On-Demand features!

PS

I feel I should include a little explanation of my many film reviews on board the ship, as some friends and family expressed concern that I wasn’t getting out and enjoying the scenery enough while on the trip. Wifi time was shockingly expensive, the ship’s in room entertainment system was absolutely free and had fairly up-to-date movies. We’d had 3 cruising at sea days that were so stormy, we were confined to the ship’s interior as 20 ft waves lashed the decks making them very slippery and dangerous. What’s a girl to do? So as well as attending lectures, cooking classes, trivia contests, ballroom dance lessons and a myriad of other ship activities, I took advantage of the opportunity to do a little movie napping in the room between activities. Don’t worry, I did lots of sightseeing whenever possible, but sadly there was little time spent lying around the pool and falling asleep over a book while sunbathing, as the seas were a little too ferocious for that.

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